Retailer expands "first-ever" autonomous service
Working with Silicon Valley startup Nuro, Kroger has been making grocery deliveries in Scottsdale, Ariz., using self-driving Prius cars. In that pilot program, which began in August, a person would be present in the car that was making deliveries and could take the wheel if necessary. Kroger said those autonomous vehicles completed nearly 1,000 deliveries to the general public.
With Tuesday’s launch, the fleet is expanding to include Nuro’s custom unmanned vehicle, known as the R1, which has no driver and no passengers. Nuro has been developing the R1 since 2016, and announced its partnership with Kroger in June.
“Nuro envisions a world without errands, where everything is on-demand and can be delivered affordably,” Nuro President and co-founder Dave Ferguson said in a statement. “Operating a delivery service using our custom unmanned vehicles is an important first step toward that goal.”
Kroger said the automous vehicle delivery service is available from a single Fry’s Food Stores outlet. Customers can place orders via the frysfood.com website or the Fry’s mobile app. Orders can be scheduled for same-day or next-day delivery, and there is a $5.95 flat fee per order.
“Kroger customers are looking for new, convenient ways to feed their families and purchase the products they need quickly through services like pickup and delivery,” Kroger chief digital officer Yael Cosset said. “Our autonomous delivery pilot with Nuro over the past few months continues to prove the benefit of the flexible and reliable technology. Through this exciting and innovative partnership, we are delivering a great customer experience and advancing Kroger’s commitment to redefine the grocery experience by creating an ecosystem that offers our customers anything, anytime, and anywhere.”
Kroger said that delivery of online grocery orders is now available to more than 90% of its customer base, and added that its digital sales grew by 60% in the third quarter.